September 24, 2021

Russell expects equal status to Hamilton when he joins Mercedes | 2021 Italian Grand Prix

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George Russell says he will be given equal status to Lewis Hamilton when he joins the world champion at Mercedes next year.

Having been confirmed as the team’s new driver for 2022 earlier this week, Russell said it has been “made very clear to me” that he will “definitely go in on level terms” with Hamilton.

“Mercedes are always respectful in that regard to give both drivers the best opportunity,” said Russell, who will replace Valtteri Bottas in the team’s line-up.

Russell is confident the pair can race each other closely but cleanly.

“Throughout my junior careers there were a number of drivers that I was very close with on pace and very often very close with on-track,” he said. “But there’s no reason why there would be any falling-outs or anything.

“I’m sure we’re going to race each other respectfully but hard as well at the same time, as Lewis and Valtteri have over the past five years.”

Mercedes want no repeat of the fractious relationship which existed between Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. The pair were team mates from 2013 to 2016, and took each other while disputing the lead at the Spanish Grand Prix in their final season as team mates.

“Mercedes have had clear experience of a poor dynamic in the team and they’ve made it absolutely clear that they don’t want on a repeat,” said Russell. “On a personal level as well I don’t want that either.

“I think it’s so important for team mates to work together to push the team. Next year it’s a new car, there’s no guarantees who’s going to have the fastest car so I guess it’s our job as drivers to push that forward.

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“I’d say as well Lewis and I are at very different stages in our career which I think also helps. I have a huge amount of respect for him I think being so much younger and looking up to him as a young karting driver changes that dynamic a lot too so I don’t see there being any issues at all.”

The 23-year-old said he was “extremely happy” to be signed up by the reigning champions after three years in Formula 1. “It’s pretty surreal to be honest because I’ve been part of Mercedes for so long now.

“I joined as a junior driver, coming through the ranks, testing for them, reserve driver. And still being at Williams they over-looked things, managed me. So in a way I’m almost returning back to where I started my journey towards F1.

“But equally obviously it’s sad to close this chapter with Williams. It’s been a great journey and so pleased we’ve had some great results in recent races to show for our efforts.”

“It’s not going to be easy,” he added. “I’m under no illusion how tough that’s going to me. We all know how strong Lewis is and in my opinion he’s probably the greatest driver of all time. He’s a seven-times world champion for a reason. So I think I’m in an incredibly fortunate position that I’m able to go in and learn from the best.”

Following Mercedes’ driver announcement earlier this week, Hamilton contacted Russell to congratulate him on his appointment.

“We spoke earlier this week over text, he said congratulations and he’s looking forwards to being team mates with me and seeing how I get on and I said likewise,” said Russell. “It’s a privilege for me to be lining up alongside him.

“Obviously all these photos came around on social media of when I was a young boy looking up to Lewis. I’s pretty crazy to see how the times have gone and lining up alongside him next year.”

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